We’re spending more and more time online. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to escape advertising’s grip on our consciousness. Youtube, Facebook, Google, our favourite websites and newspapers, everywhere we leave a digital footprint we see ads stalking us. There’s no escape as online advertising seeks to perennially inundate us with veiled attempts at capturing our attention.

As a person working in the marketing and advertising field one might suspect that I’d be the first one to grab my surfboard and gleefully ride this wave of opportunity to reach consumers. The rise of digital makes growing your brand much easier compared to previous times. Now if you play this right, you potentially have a global audience. But so many are playing it wrong.

On the back of every innovation rides threats and dangers. The digital interface is now awash with advertising which frustrates users making them both unforgiving and untrusting towards all advertising. Ads that invade peoples private space and interrupt their video midstream. Many people refuse to click ads anymore with others conditioning their brains to ignore advertising. This isn’t good for businesses or advertising platforms like Youtube and Facebook.

Damaging The User Experience

One of the fundamental consequences of the deluge of advertising throughout our screens is that they’re damaging user experiences. Ads are increasingly interrupting our viewing patterns. Desperately gnawing at us to inspire, no command, our attention. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Youtube. We’re now forced to endure watching an ad at the start of most videos. Sometimes you’ll be able to skip it after 5 seconds of play but more frequently you’ll be provided with no choice but to watch the full 15-30 seconds.

Consequently, viewers are both frustrated and increasingly furious. Googles quest to maximise advertising revenue to placate shareholders has led to disregarding the epochal customer experience and user satisfaction levels. Google must thread carefully. A moment will come when users feel their time is being needlessly stolen from them. Users will spend less time on Youtube when under the strict stipulation that ads must be viewed.

Stealing People’s Browsing Control

A lot of these feelings stem from my own personal experience of using (perhaps even overusing) Youtube. I’m cool with waiting 5 seconds to skip the ad but anything longer makes me skip watching the video entirely. Maybe I lack patience but I know I’m not alone. A lot of this goes back to control and the fact that the ad has taken all control of the viewing experience away from consumers. I’m under duress, in many cases, to watch a 15-30 second ad before the video plays. I do not have a choice. The ad with options to skip after it plays the first 5 seconds at least provides me with some element of control. In some cases, I might even watch the ad especially if its either relevant to me or is a local ad peaking curiosity.

The fact that Youtube cannot place themselves in consumer’s shoes and realise they’re crossing a line is criminal. It’s not about being naive but being realistic. The haemorrhaging of brand identity begins when you start to irritate people. Any attention is good attention is an archaic advertising maxim which only fit past generations. These brands are seen as manipulative, exploitative, invasive, and annoying. This isn’t the Mad Men era of the 1970’s. Nowadays, consumers are more informed. They’re also more intelligent and will shun brands which attempt to invade their privacy or aggressively target them. I think forcing viewers to sit through ads fits this criterion. Numerous studies exist demonstrating that millennials especially don’t trust ads.

Youtube has pledged to scrap the 30-second format by 2018 but that still presents us with a 15-second wait for the video to load. At a time when consumers won’t even wait 10 seconds for a website to load before bouncing, its hard to see this appeasing frustrated viewers.

Quality Control

It isn’t just the ad format which is annoying consumers. Google also needs to address questions about the reputability of some ads. Brands are also increasingly concerned about Youtube’s quality control fearing they haven’t any command of where their ads appear.

This stems from large companies such as Chase, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson pulling their advertising from the space. This was in response to concerns their adverts were appearing on terrorist and other undesirable channels damaging their brand and inadvertently funding terrorism.

Exploring Other Avenues

Instead, many larger brands are putting their advertising budget into native advertising. This style of advertising is more subtle allowing consumers to see the brand but not aggressively force it on them. These ads blend in seamlessly on websites and social media feeds making the customer believe its part of the experience and not an ad. Irish advertisers spent €45million in 2015 on native advertising and spending in native ads has been rising globally ever since. It matches consumers needs for unobtrusive ads.

Let’s hope advertising platforms address issues with the disruption ads are causing. It isn’t good for the viewer, the advertiser or the platforms.